Weekend Reading on Women's Representation September 10, 2021

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on September 10, 2021

Dear fans of gender balance in politics,
In stark contrast to the new restrictive legislation in Texas, Mexico has legalized reproductive rights for women and, according to this article in The Washington Post, women have reached gender parity in Congress. As a refresher, Mexico uses a proportional voting system & instituted gender quotas for women in government - Mexico now ranks 6th worldwide for the percentage of women in the lower house of parliament:

For the first time, 50 percent of lawmakers in Mexico’s lower house of Congress are women. (That compares with 27 percent in the U.S. House of Representatives.) Women are set to lead nearly a quarter of Mexico’s 32 states, after historic gains in the June midterm elections. In several states, including Sonora, women will outnumber men in local legislatures.

The shift is remarkable in a country where women didn’t win the right to vote for president until 1953. It underscores the power of gender quotas, which are increasingly popular in legislatures worldwide. Thanks to an ambitious 2019 constitutional reform, Mexico is seeking “parity in everything” — giving women an equal shot at top jobs in the legislative, judicial and executive branches.

“No country in Latin America has gone quite as far,” said Jennifer M. Piscopo, a political scientist at Occidental College in Los Angeles who studies gender in the region. “I’m fairly positive there’s also no other country in the globe that has written ‘parity in everything’ into their constitution.”

It’s still unclear how much such parity will translate into real power. In Mexico’s newly elected lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, men still lead the parties. And the increasing number of female politicians hasn’t necessarily meant improvement in women’s lives. Violence against women has surged in recent years, prompting an explosion of protests.

Yet many believe a years-long campaign for more equality is fundamentally changing Mexico. This week, the country’s supreme court effectively decriminalized abortion, a key demand of women’s groups. Affirmative action in government has become widely accepted; not a single lawmaker voted against the 2019 gender-parity reform. The inauguration of six female governors this month is seen as particularly significant because the posts are so powerful...

As Mexico transitioned from a one-party system to democracy, it repeatedly rewrote its electoral laws. Women insisted that democracy meant an equal right to political representation. “They won the rhetorical argument,” said Piscopo. The quota for female congressional candidates was set at 30 percent, then 40, then 50.

Pushing for such reforms was a broad alliance of female politicians, activists, lawyers and academics. “We did pacts, strategies, how to vote, what would happen, how each would convince her
party,” said Patricia Mercado, a senator who was a leader in the effort.

Women in Japan make up just 10% of seats in parliament for a rank of 166th worldwide - William Pesek wrote this piece in The Washington Post about the imperative for women's economic and political leadership:

Over the past decade, Japan has tried a variety of strategies to restore its economic relevance. It spent trillions of dollars jolting growth. It devalued the yen. The Bank of Japan seemed to morph itself into a giant hedge fund to revive the nation’s animal spirits.

Japan did everything except what many economists argue might actually work: empowering women.

The question of how Japan can raise its game has just taken on renewed relevance. Less than a year into a remarkably unpopular stint as leader, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga bowed to reality and announced on Sept. 3 that he will not seek reelection.

That is what happens when the ruling Liberal Democratic Party botches its covid-19 response — and when the government thinks it’s wise to hold an Olympic and Paralympic Games as the delta and now “mu” variants rock the globe.

Suga’s sudden departure is casting a spotlight on the women who might angle to replace him. There are a number of highly qualified candidates mulling runs to become Japan’s first female leader.

Case in point: political trailblazer Seiko Noda. In 1998, when she was in her 30s, she became Japan’s youngest postwar Cabinet member. Noda, now 61, has since handled a variety of portfolios, such as the postal system and telecommunications, science and technology and gender equality.

When it comes to Japan’s biggest economic challenges, Noda checks many of the experience boxes for voters. She has been a bold and consistent voice for the need for highly indebted Japan to address its declining birthrate and fast-aging population, which imperil Tokyo’s credit rating. And she has focused on making it easier for women to balance work and life as a means of raising the national birthrate — which fell to a record low last year — and pulling more women into politics.

Until last week the United States & Afghanistan were tied for the percentage of women in parliament but women have been excluded from leadership positions announced this week and the anti-women ministry of 'vice and virtue' has returned, according to this piece in The Washington Post:
The last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, morality police roamed the streets, implementing the group’s austere interpretation of Islamic law — with harsh restrictions on women, strictly enforced prayer times and even bans on kite-flying and chess.

Nearly 20 years later, the Ministry for Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is back.

Following its return to power last month, the Taliban this week formed an interim government, announcing a slate of provisional ministers, all male and most from the Taliban’s old guard. Among them: a little known cleric called Mohamad Khalid, named to lead the restored department.

In an English-language list of new appointees distributed by the Taliban, the Ministry for Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice was the only name not translated.

A body under the previous government, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, was not included at all, apparently having been disbanded. Protesters across major cities this week called on the militants to give women seats in government and to run the country with less repression than the last time around.
Meeting with Irish women's representation advocates in 2016
Citing frustration with gender targets, women's representation advocates introduced a bill that would set a 40% minimum for women on corporate boards in Ireland according to this article in The Irish Times:
The National Women’s Council has called on the Government to support a new Bill that would make gender quotas for company boards a legal requirement.

The new Private Members’ Bill would, if enacted, establish a 40 per cent quota for female representation on company boards.

The Irish Corporate Governance (Gender Balance) Bill 2021, brought forward by Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins, will be submitted to the Dáil today.

The Bill includes a stipulation that 33 per cent of a company’s board must be women after the first year of its enactment. This quota would rise to 40 per cent after three years.

Companies would be required to submit annual reports on their gender balance at boardroom level.

Where a company failed to meet the gender balance quota without a credible explanation, they could become liable for an application to the High Court for an order directing them to comply with the Act.

The quotas would apply to boards and governing councils of designated companies, corporations, undertakings, charities and bodies in the State.

There would be a few exceptions, such as companies with fewer than 20 employees.

“Women accounted for just 22.4 per cent of board members of Irish-listed companies as of September 2020, while 19 per cent of Irish-listed companies had no female directors, according to a recent report from National Women’s Council,” said Ms Higgins.

Gender quotas of this nature were recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality earlier this year.
Meeting with Indian women's rights advocates in 2019
Women in India hold 14% of seats in the Lok Sabha - or lower house of parliament - which puts India at 148th worldwide while women make up just 11% of judicial seats according to this commentary in The Week. There is renewed energy for reserved seats for women, according to this story in Aljazeera that would ensure that women are better represented in politics:
“This is a special day in the history of our country…”

These were the opening remarks of a debate that took place on September 12, 1996, in the Lok Sabha, the Indian parliament’s lower house.

On the agenda was the introduction of a constitutional amendment bill that sought to reserve one-third of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies.

Similar versions of the bill were introduced later in 1998, 1999, and 2008, but all four lapsed with the dissolution of those governments.

Twenty-five years after it was first introduced in parliament, the Women’s Reservation Bill continues to languish and is yet to become a reality.

Political leaders and experts say that while the initial delay was due to concerns over the issue of intersectionality, at the heart of the delays is the unwillingness to share power and fear of losing bastions of electoral support.
Graphics from Native Women Lead
September 8th is Native Women's Equal Pay Day which marks the day that Native women will earn the same amount that White men earned at the beginning of the year. United States Representatives Sharice Davids and Melanie Stansbury write about Native women's rights in Ms Magazine:
Wednesday, Sept. 8, marks Native Women’s Equal Pay Day—the day it takes Native women in America to earn what non-Hispanic white men finished making on December 31 of last year. We’re marking this day on September 8 because it takes nine months longer for Native women to earn the same wage that men do.

Beyond the obvious injustice of unequal pay, Native women are doing essential work that our country relies on to keep moving. That has been especially true throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as nearly three in 10 Native women have been on the front lines providing essential services—from health care to child care to stocking the local grocery stores. Despite their critical contributions during a national crisis, Native women in these frontline industries earn just 62 cents for every dollar earned by non-Hispanic white men. For Native American mothers, the wage gap is even worse—they receive only 50 cents for every dollar that non-Hispanic white fathers are paid.

Native women are working in frontline environments that put them in greater danger during the pandemic. They’re still showing up to work, like so many other essential workers, despite the risks because they must. Two-thirds of Native women provide at least 40 percent of their families’ income, and once they reach ret
irement age, this wage gap will push more than 21.4 percent of Native women aged 65 and older into poverty.

Beyond individual Native women and their families, this $0.60 pay gap has a harmful impact on the entire American workforce. If all women in the United States, including Native women, received equal pay, it would cut poverty for working women in half—and add billions to our GDP. Women drive our economy, and equal pay is a path to our economic recovery from the pandemic.
Missouri gets a "D" on RepresentWomen's 2021 Gender Parity Index
ReflectUS staffer Amanda Pohl, Amanda Morrison, and Allison Gibbs co-wrote a piece in The Missouri Times about women's representation in the Show-Me state:
Missouri women have recently gained traction in political representation, but these advances have still left Missouri women far from equal representation. In fact, over the past 20 years, Missouri women have accounted for only 20 percent of elected positions even though they represent 51 percent of the population. Missouri women deserve a far greater voice in the policymaking that impacts their lives, particularly at the local level.

Research demonstrates that Missouri women are poorly represented in larger municipal governments, and data show that when accounting for smaller local governments, women’s representation is even more bleak. When considering Black, Indigenous, and Latina women, there are even fewer. There is a significant opportunity to improve these numbers — especially at local government level — through local board and commission appointments. It is more important than ever to include women in political leadership for true representation.

Women account for only 17 percent of elected local and municipal government seats across Missouri. For local appointed boards and commissions, where information is available, women only account for 22 percent of available seats while representing 51 percent of the population. With respect to particular bodies, women account for 15 percent of board of adjustment seats and 19 percent of planning and zoning boards. These appointed boards address fundamental issues within communities, including infrastructure, land use, and public safety. Local boards make recommendations to elected officials based on their research and can draft regulations for the municipality to consider. The exact powers of the boards and commissions depend on your locality, but these are meaningful bodies that have a significant role in our communities. The lack of women serving means that key voices are missing from important decisions that affect all of us.

Thankfully, several organizations across Missouri are working with women seeking political leadership opportunities. For example, Missouri M.A.D.E. and WEPOWER collaborate with women’s interest groups to promote opportunities and provide development for those seeking political leadership. Through the national organization ReflectUS, these organizations are able to coalesce their resources to connect with a significant number of women from all parts of Missouri. To date, they have trained hundreds of Missouri women who are ready and willing to take on political leadership roles. Now, local governments need to take action to increase the number of women serving on local boards and commissions.
tennis tweet.jpg
The mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn - elected via ranked choice voting - Tweeted about teen tennis phenom Emma Raducanu who along with fellow teen Leylah Fernandez have qualified for the US Open. Liz Clarke wrote about the dynamic duo in The Washington Post:
In the view of 18-year-old Emma Raducanu, comparing yourself or your results to those of others is “the thief of happiness.”

So it was fitting that Raducanu had no idea she had achieved a historic first Wednesday when she became the first qualifier to reach the U.S. Open semifinals, toppling her eighth consecutive opponent, Olympic champion Belinda Bencic.

Nor did Raducanu realize that, with her 6-3, 6-4 victory in the season’s final major, she will become the British No. 1 on Monday, when the world rankings are updated.

Raducanu joined Canada’s Leylah Fernandez, who clinched her semifinal spot Tuesday, the day after her 19th birthday, which she celebrated by passing out cupcakes to fellow players.

As the pressure mounts with each round at the U.S. Open, both teens’ happiness is palpable. It also has become infectious: Their stunning runs to the semifinals — Raducanu without conceding a set, Fernandez by upsetting three seeded players in consecutive three-set battles — have breathed new life into a tournament that was sadly star-depleted at the outset.
That's all for this week,
Cynthia
P.S. Don't forget to check out this week's suggested reading from the team at RepresentWomen